“A richly researched and intricately layered book that reframes our understanding of heritage as a product of larger cultural processes of education, the development of disciplines, and the articulation of identities both national and local.”—Denise D. Meringolo, author of Museums, Monuments, and National Parks: Toward a New Genealogy of Public History
“In sparkling prose, McGill shows how educational systems and archaeological heritage management intersect in shaping how young people in an Afro-Caribbean community come to know their history and suggests ways in which education and heritage management could be made more meaningful.”—Melissa A. Johnson, author of Becoming Creole: Nature and Race in Belize
Through an innovative approach that combines years of ethnographic research with British imperial archival sources, this book reveals how cultural heritage has been negotiated by colonial, independent state, and community actors in Belize from the late nineteenth century to the present. Alicia McGill explores the heritage of two African-descendant Kriol communities as seen in the contexts of archaeology and formal education.
McGill demonstrates that in both spheres, Belizean institutions have constructed and used heritage places and ideologies to manage difference, govern subjects and citizens, and reinforce development agendas. In the communities studied here, ancient Maya cities and legacies have been prized while Kriol histories have been marginalized and racial and ethnic inequalities have endured. Yet McGill shows that at the same time, Belizean teachers and children resist, maintaining their Kriol identity through storytelling, subsistence practices, and other engagements with ecological resources. They also creatively identify connections between themselves and the ancient cultures that once lived in their regions.
Exploring heritage as a social construct, McGill provides examples of the many ways people construct values, meanings, and customs related to it. Negotiating Heritage through Education and Archaeology: Colonialism, National Identity, and Resistance in Belize is a richly informed study that emphasizes the importance of community-based engagement in public history and heritage studies.
Alicia Ebbitt McGill is assistant professor of history at North Carolina State University.